Edward Norton as Miles Born in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. (John Wilson / Netflix)

Glass Onion Nails It: Policymakers Have to Test Receipts on the Hydrogen Hype

Glass Onion isn’t only a hilarious comedy with a knock-out forged. It’s additionally a reasonably darn good allegory for a way the charlatans within the fossil gasoline business push hydrogen as the reply to all our power and local weather challenges.

The plot of Glass Onion revolves round tech billionaire Miles Bron’s ambitions to energy the world with a made-up hydrogen product referred to as Klear — a plan that actually blows up in his face. There’s some enjoyable science fiction at play right here — storing hydrogen in a room-temperature crystal like Klear isn’t a factor. However the film illustrates a few of the all-too-real dynamics in right this moment’s power debates.

Pushing for probably the most ludicrous makes use of of hydrogen first

You’d suppose the final place to put in a dangerous new expertise can be in peoples’ houses, nevertheless it’s the primary use Miles Bron opts for, ignoring the challenges and security dangers concerned in getting Klear in each family within the nation. It’s eerily much like the best way fuel firms promote hydrogen as a gasoline for dwelling home equipment.

Edward Norton as Miles Bron and Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Thriller. (Netflix)

So, why is utilizing hydrogen in houses such a foul concept? First, motion on the local weather disaster can’t wait and it received’t be possible to make use of pure hydrogen at dwelling for the foreseeable future. Fuel-burning home equipment on right this moment’s market have been designed to burn methane and may’t function on pure hydrogen with out an unacceptable danger of explosions. Likewise, the fuel pipelines in houses and utility methods aren’t suitable with pure hydrogen. The quickest strategy to deal with air pollution from dwelling home equipment is by switching to trendy electrical home equipment, like warmth pumps and induction stoves, and rapidly transitioning to renewable electrical energy.

Second, even when hydrogen have been an possibility, zero-emission electrical home equipment can be the higher alternative for individuals who wish to get monetary savings on gasoline and breathe clear air. Inexperienced hydrogen is produced through the use of renewable electrical energy to separate water molecules, however probably the most economical method for dwelling home equipment to make use of renewable power is to plug instantly right into a clear energy grid. A inexperienced hydrogen furnace would require about six instances as a lot wind and photo voltaic power as a contemporary warmth pump house heater. If that weren’t sufficient, any gear that burns fuel — whether or not methane or hydrogen — produces lung-damaging air air pollution, however electrical home equipment don’t.

There are some sensible makes use of for really inexperienced hydrogen, like utilizing it to exchange all of the fossil-derived hydrogen that business makes use of right this moment as a feedstock for fertilizer manufacturing. There are some sectors the place it’s unclear how nicely hydrogen will be capable of compete towards different decarbonization methods, like long-haul vans and trains. And there are many locations the place it could be a waste of money and time to make use of hydrogen as a result of there are cheaper zero-emissions options accessible right this moment. Sadly, it’s these sectors — like dwelling power and automobiles — the place the fossil gasoline business is most aggressively hyping hydrogen, exactly in an effort to stall a fast transition away from fossil fuels.

Backside line: Like Miles Bron, the fossil gasoline business is hyping hydrogen loudest the place it makes the least sense.

The smoke and mirrors round how business produces its so-called “clear” hydrogen

We don’t know the way Miles Bron makes Klear, and that’s a part of the purpose. Miles pitches his rich and highly effective buddies on Klear as an virtually magical, silver-bullet power supply that may remedy the local weather disaster and be made burden-free from ample seawater. There’s a little bit of actuality right here: The one zero-emissions technique for producing hydrogen is utilizing renewable power to separate water molecules, good outdated H20 — although this course of isn’t any free lunch, requiring huge quantities of power.

Almost all of the hydrogen bought in California is produced from fossil fuel, however business typically buys biogas credit from out-of-state entities like manufacturing facility farms and calls it “renewable.”

Miles Bron’s obscure description about how he makes Klear mirrors the often-scant particulars we get from the fossil gasoline business after they declare their hydrogen is “clear” or “renewable.” Once we take a more in-depth look, this declare typically depends on quite a lot of greenwashing schemes to masks hydrogen manufacturing’s heavy toll on our local weather. As an illustration, business is pressuring the Treasury Division to provide “clear hydrogen” manufacturing tax credit to firms that use soiled grid electrical energy to make hydrogen in the event that they purchase “renewable power credit” to create a authorized fiction that they used wind or photo voltaic power.

The Biden administration ought to reject these requests to keep away from giving tax credit for hydrogen fuels that make the local weather disaster even worse. If business makes use of fossil-powered electrical energy for the energy-intensive technique of splitting water molecules, the hydrogen gasoline it produces is much more carbon-intensive than fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel, and fracked fuel. Encouraging business to scale up its manufacturing of hydrogen from polluting processes may have really devastating penalties for the planet. Right this moment, hydrogen manufacturing alone produces extra local weather air pollution than the complete nation of Germany as a result of business produces a lot hydrogen from fossil fuels.

Backside line: The main points on how business produces hydrogen make a profound distinction for the local weather and public well being, and business does *not* need the federal government paying shut consideration.

Policymakers could be mesmerized by the hydrogen hype

An underlying thread in Glass Onion is Miles Bron’s coziness with individuals within the authorities who ought to have scrutinized his lofty claims, however didn’t. His hydrogen expertise may solely endanger individuals in america if the federal government did not do its job. Even in the actual world, authorities officers could be too fast to just accept hydrogen hype, such because the UK power minister who’s selling hydrogen as a “silver bullet.”

Backside line: Policymakers ought to do the required detective work in the case of hydrogen. For one factor, of us can begin untangling the business spin by studying our report, “Reclaiming Hydrogen for a Renewable Future.” Because the Biden administration implements hydrogen-boosting provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and the Inflation Discount Act, we’ll be paying shut consideration and preventing undue business affect. In almost all circumstances in the case of transportation and our houses, electrical expertise already accessible right this moment is probably the most environment friendly, climate-friendly improve.

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